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R.I.P. John William Wevers

29th July 2010

World class Septuagintal scholar John William Wevers passed away last week. Here is a notice that was sent to the members of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies:

On July 23, Professor Emeritus John William Wevers, of the University of Toronto, passed away at the age of 91. Prof. Wevers was struck by a cerebral hemorrhage in the Toronto nursing home where he had lived since July 2008. A memorial service will be held in Toronto on Sept. 11.

During his long tenure at the University of Toronto, Prof. Wevers had brought the Department of Near Eastern Studies (now merged into the Dept. of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations) to unprecedented complement and quality; he himself became an undisputed master of Septuagint Studies during the last decades of the 20th century, having produced the critical edition of the whole Greek Pentateuch for the Göttingen Septuaginta Unternehmen, and added further text-critical studies, translations, and commentaries to each of the five main volumes of this edition. Prof. Wevers’s knowledge and contribution extended to several other languages; he had, in particular, made significant contributions to Classical Hebrew scholarship, as well as vigorously promoting its study at the University of Toronto.

He was one of the few scholars I know who had the mastery of the languages and texts necessary to do true textual criticism.

May his name be a blessing for future generations. R.I.P.


Posted in CSBS, IOSCS, Scholars, Septuagint, Text Criticism | 1 Comment »

A Form-Critical Classification of the Psalms according to Hermann Gunkel

23rd May 2010

In honour of Gunkel’s birthday…

hermann_gunkel.jpg

“Genre research in Psalms is nonnegotiable, not something one can execute or ignore according to preference.  Rather it is the foundational work with which there can be no certainty in the remainder.
It is the firm ground from which everything else must ascend.”
- Hermann Gunkel

Perhaps no scholar has influenced the modern study of the book of Psalms as much as Hermann Gunkel. His pioneering form-critical work on the psalms sought to provide a new and meaningful context in which to interpret individual psalms — not by looking at their historical background or their literary context within the Psalter (which he didn’t see as significant), but by bringing together psalms of the same genre (Gattung) from throughout the Psalter. Even though Psalms scholarship has refined and critiqued his approach and have moved on to different approaches, Gunkel’s form-critical legacy remains firmly entrenched in modern scholarship and is the default starting point for most studies of the Psalter.

The Genres of the Psalms

According to Gunkel, for psalms to be considered as part of the same genre (Gattung) three conditions had to be met:

  1. the psalms had to have a similar setting in life (Sitz im Leben), basis in worship, a common cultic setting, or at least originally derive from one;
  2. they had to be characterized by common thoughts, feelings, and moods; and
  3. they required a shared diction, style, and structure — a language related to form (Formensprache). This feature provides the signals of the particular genre.

Working with these criteria, Gunkel isolated a number of different genres or types of psalms. In his earlier work he highlighted four primary types of psalms (hymns, community laments, individual thanksgiving psalms, and individual laments), with various subcategories, as well as several mixed forms. In his later work, completed by Joachim Begrich, he identified six major types (hymns, enthronement psalms, communal complaints, royal psalms, individual complaints, and individual thanksgiving psalms) and a number of smaller genres and mixed types. I have tended to follow the later classification, with modifications as noted. Also note that some psalms are found in more than one category. This is especially the case with sub-genres since Gunkel wasn’t consistent in how he dealt with them.

For this summary I have relied primarily on these two works:

  • Hermann Gunkel (completed by Joachim Begrich), Introduction to Psalms: The Genres of the Religious Lyric of Israel (Mercer University Press, 1998; translation of Einleitung in die Psalmen: die Gattungen der religiösen Lyrik Israels [Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1985, 1933]; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com).
  • Hermann Gunkel, The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction (Fortress Press, 1967; translation of his article in Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart [2nd ed; J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1930]; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com)

I have also included this summary as a PDF document below (it is a handout I put together for my Psalms class). Feel free to download it and use it as long as you keep the ascription in the first footnote. (While I have double checked the references, please let me know if you find any errors or omissions.)

I. Hymns

A. Hymns in General

Psalms 8; 19; 29; 33; 65; 67; 68; 96; 98; 100; 103; 104; 105; 111; 113; 114; 117; 135; 136; 139; 145-150.

Form

  1. Introduction: A call to praise, sing, and rejoice to Yahweh in some form.
  2. Body: The reasons why Yahweh should be praised (often introduced by כי, , “for”).
    1. His qualities and attributes.
    2. His regular or repeated actions, including his works in creation and conservation of cosmos and his works in history, especially for Israel.
  3. Conclusion: renewed summons to praise.

Sitz im Leben
Hymns were sung as part of worship on diverse occasions, including sacred festivals as well at other times, perhaps by a choir or an individual singer.

B. Songs of Zion

Psalms 46; 48; 76; 84; 87; 122.

These psalms tend to lack a proper introduction. They praise Yahweh by praising Jerusalem, addressing the holy place, and calling down blessings upon it. They were sung at particular occasions that celebrated Jerusalem’s majesty and future eschatological significance.

C. Psalms of Yahweh’s Enthronement

Psalms 47; 93; 96:10-13; 97; 99.

Form

  1. Often begin with the words יהוה מלך, “Yahweh has become king.”
  2. Contain many calls to rejoice.
  3. Have brief references to Yahweh’s deeds, depicted as just now taking place.
  4. Give descriptions of what his reign will mean to Israel and the world.
  5. Present the idea that a new world kingdom is coming.

Sitz im Leben
These psalms were used as part of Israel’s worship, likely including an enthronement festival in which Yahweh is glorified as king. These psalms were given a prophetic, eschatological, reinterpretation in their final stages.

II. Lament/Complaint Psalms

A. Communal Complaint Psalms

Psalms 44; (58); (60); 74; 79; 80; 83; (106); (125).

Form

  1. Calling upon Yahweh by name (usually in the vocative)
  2. Lamenting complaints over the misfortune; almost always political in nature.
  3. Supplications and petitions to Yahweh to transform the misfortunes.
  4. Thoughts aimed to excite confidence in the suppliant or to move Yahweh to action, such as his honour or the sake of his name.
  5. Often end with a certainty of hearing.

Sitz im Leben
The setting of these psalms are days of national fasting and/or complaint festivals brought on by various national calamities, such as war, exile, pestilence, drought, famine, and plagues.

B. Individual Complaint Psalms

1) Individual Laments in General

Psalms 3; 5; 6; 7; 13; 17; 22; 25; 26; 27:7-14; 28; 31; 35; 38; 39; 42-43; 54-57; 59; 61; 63; 64; 69; 70; 71; 86; 88; 102; 109; 120; 130; 140; 141; 142; 143.

Form
Laments will typically include the following element, though not necessarily in the same order:

  1. Summons to Yahweh.
  2. Complaint/Lament proper, often preceded by a description of the prayer.
  3. Considerations inducing Yahweh to intervene, whether by challenging Yahweh’s honour, exciting his anger by citing the enemies’ words, or by the nature of the complaint itself.
  4. Petition/Entreaty. This is the most significant part of the complaint psalm. May be of a general nature or may be quite specific (confessional petitions, petitions of innocence, etc.).
  5. Conviction of being heard (present only in some Psalms) and/or a vow.

Sitz im Leben
The setting in life is difficult to determine due to the formulaic character of the language in laments. Originally derives from the worship service and then later were used as spiritual songs of the individual. These psalms were occasioned by apparently life-threatening situations rather than everyday life; such situations may include illness, misfortune, persecution from enemies — though one needs to be careful about taking the images too literally.

2) Psalms Protesting Innocence
Psalms 5; 7; 17; 26. These psalms have an accentuated assurance of innocence, and even in some cases a qualified self-curse.

3) Psalms of Confession
Psalms 51; 130 (Psalms expressing national penitence include Psalms 78; 81; 106; cf. also Ezra 9:9-15; Neh 9:9-38; Dan 9:4-19). These psalms are characterized by a painful awareness of having sinned against Yahweh and deserving punishment. In this light they ask forgiveness and appeal for God’s grace.

4) Psalms of Cursing and Vengeance
Psalm 109, among others. These psalms strive for retaliation against enemies.

5) Psalms of Trust
Psalms 4; 11; 16; 23; 27:1-6; 62; 131 (Psalm 125 is a national song of trust). These psalms reformulate the lament psalms and shift their focus to an expression of trust and confidence, so much so that often the complaint, petition, and certainty of hearing are displaced. They often speak of Yahweh in the third person.

III. Royal Psalms

Psalms 2; 18; 20; 21; 45; 72; 101; 110; 132; 144:1-11; cf. 89:47-52.

Form
Formally Royal psalms are of different types, though in all cases they are “concerned entirely with kings.” Some of their distinguishing elements include:

  1. Praises of the king.
  2. Affirmations of Yahweh’s favour to the king.
  3. Prayers for the king (or his own prayer) and royal oracles.
  4. Portrayals of the king’s righteousness and piety.

Sitz im Leben
These psalms were performed at some sort of court festivity, where they were performed in the presence of the king and his dignitaries. Specific occasions may be enthronement/accession festivals and anniversaries, victory over an enemy, healing from an illness, among others.

IV. Thanksgiving Psalms

A. Thanksgivings of the Individual

Psalms 18; 30; 32; 34; 40:2-12; 41; 66:1-7; 92; (100); (107); 116; 118; 138.

Form

  1. An expanded Introduction, declaring the intention to thank God.
  2. Narration of the trouble, usually to the guests of the celebration. The psalmist usually recounts:
    1. his trouble (thus they are akin to Laments)
    2. his calling upon God
    3. his deliverance
  3. Acknowledgment/proclamation of Yahweh’s deliverance; usually directed towards others.
  4. In many cases, the psalm ends with an Announcement of the thank-offering.

Sitz im Leben
Since the word usually translated “thanksgiving” is the same word used for “thank offering” (תודה; todah; e.g., Ps 50:14, 23; Jonah 2:9), it is clear that these psalms were intended to be used in a cultic setting. It is thought that the individual, in the presence of the worshiping congregation (e.g., 22:22; 26:12), would testify personally to God’s saving deeds, accompanied with a ritual act and meal. Eventually, these psalms freed themselves from the actual sacrifice.

B. Thanksgivings of the Community

Psalms 66:8-12; 67; 124; 129.

These psalms are parallel in form to the individual thanksgiving psalms. The life setting for these psalms was likely a cultic celebration at the temple in remembrance of God’s help and intervention.

V. Wisdom Psalms

Psalms 1; 37; 49; 73; 91; 112; 127; 128; 133.

While there are wisdom elements found in psalms of a variety of genres, there are psalms which exhibit a concentration of wisdom themes to be considered a distinct type. As such, these psalms do not exhibit a single formal pattern, but share a number of characteristics, including:

  1. Psalmist speaks of his words as wisdom, instruction, etc.
  2. He describes the “fear of Yahweh.”
  3. He addresses his hearers as “sons.”
  4. He warns, teaches, and uses figures, question and answer techniques, beatitudes, descriptions of Yahweh’s ways.

VI. Smaller Genres and Mixed Types

A. Pilgrimage Psalms
Only one complete example remains, Psalm 122. These psalms were used at the beginning of a pilgrimage as well as once the pilgrim had reached his or her destination.

B. Psalms Using Ancient Stories (Legends) of Israel
Psalms 78; 105; 106. These psalms are subsumed under other literary types (e.g., Ps 105 is a hymn), but may be grouped together because they share a number of common characteristics:

  1. The Narration of Yahweh’s deeds and/or the sins of Israel (of Heilsgeschichte)
  2. The Exhortation (as in Deuteronomy)

C. Psalm Liturgies
Psalms 15; 20; 24; 14/53; 66; 81; 82; 85; 95; 107; 115; 118; 121; 126; 132; 134. These psalms are characterized by their antiphonal structure, particularly suited for corporate worship.

D. Miscellaneous
Psalms 36; 50; 52; 75; 82; 108.

E. Mixed Psalms
Psalms 9-10; 12; 77; 90; 94; 119; 123; 137.

Conclusions

As I mentioned above, Gunkel’s classification is just a starting point. Much has changed since Gunkel did his seminal studies of the Psalms, though few studies have the Psalms have had as lasting of influence. Perhaps in future posts I will highlight some of the changes and trends since Gunkel.

Here is the handout in PDF form:

Please feel free to use it as you see fit — just remember to keep the ascription in the first footnote (And please let me know if you find any errors or omissions).

Also available in Portuguese:


Posted in Bible, Criticism, Form criticism, Hermann Gunkel, Psalms | 3 Comments »

Gunkel’s Form Critical Classification of the Psalms in Portuguese

23rd August 2009

A couple years back I put together a summary of Hermann Gunkel‘s form critical classification of the Psalms for one of my classes. I posted the summary on my blog and made a handout available on my website.

Since then Bio Nascimento has translated the handout into Portuguese (with my permission). I don’t know how many readers I have that read Portuguese, but I figured I would make the translated handout available, so here it is:

Many thanks to Bio for his work on translating this.


Posted in Criticism, Form criticism, Hermann Gunkel, Psalms | Comments Off

Five Books/Scholars that Shaped My Reading of the Bible

28th July 2009

I have been tagged in the popular  “Five Books” meme and since I want to return to blogging more regularly, I figured I would add my five to the growing list of biblical studies blogs that have responded to the meme. The original question posed over at the C. Orthodoxy blog was, “Name the five books (or scholars) that had the most immediate and lasting influence on how you read the Bible.”

1. Since the focus of the meme is on “how you read the Bible”, i.e., hermeneutics, my first book is Hans-Georg Gadamer’s Truth and Method (Continuum, 2005;  buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com).  More than any other scholar, Gadamer’s hermeneutical model has shaped the way I read the Bible (and everything else for that matter).  Another scholar who has been influential in this regard is Anthony Thiselton.

2. Learning to read the Bible in its original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) has naturally had a lasting influence on how I read it. Thus, the second scholar I list is Bruce Waltke. As his student and teaching assistant, my understanding of Biblical Hebrew benefited immensely, if I didn’t always share some of his theological perspectives. His (and M. O’Connor’s) An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Eisenbrauns, 1990; Amazon.ca | Amazon.com), remains within arm’s reach whenever I am trying to understand a matter of Hebrew syntax.

3. Reading the Bible for me entails dealing with ancient texts and translations. For that reason Emanuel Tov is my third choice.  Whether its in the area of textual criticism (see his Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible [Fortress, 2001; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com]), Septuagint studies (see my LXX pages), or (of course!) Dead Sea Scrolls (where can I start? see my Dead Sea Scrolls section of Codex), Tov has influenced my understanding of the history and development of the biblical text like few others (one other I should mention is naturally my dissertation supervisor Al Pietersma!).

4. Why do I read the Bible? I do not read it only because of its considerable influence on Western civilization, nor only because I have to prepare lecture notes or sermons ostensibly based on it! Nor do I only read it because I find it fascinating and compelling. The reason I first started reading the Bible when I was 18 was because I believed the God spoke in and through it and at that time in my life I desperately needed a word from God! That conviction remains perhaps the primary reason why I read the Bible.  A biblical scholar whose ideas  helped me in and through graduate studies is Brevard S. Childs. Whether his Introduction to Old Testament as Scripture (Fortress, 1997; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com) or his Biblical Theology of Old and New Testaments (Fortress, 1992; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com), his “canonical approach” helped me appreciate the value (and the limitations) of the various higher and lower criticisms and provided me with a way to read the Christian Bible (both Old and New Testaments)  faithfully as a biblical scholar.

5. Finally, since, as I mentioned above,  I am not just interested in reading the Bible for academic or antiquarian reasons, but because I believe it is God’s word to the church, my last scholar is Karl Barth. While I do not claim to have digested all of Barth’s works (perhaps just a few crumbs from his table), I don’t think there are (m)any theologians who interact with the biblical texts to the extent he does. From his ground-breaking Commentary on Romans (Oxford, 1968; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com) to his voluminous Church Dogmatics (Continuum, 2009; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com), Barth modeled a way of reading Scripture that remained focused on the Triune God.

There are many others I could list, scholars like Herman Gunkel, Robert Lowth, Gerhard von Rad, Phyllis Trible, Walter Brueggemann, Sara Japhet, John Goldingay, George Eldon Ladd, Raymond Brown, N.T. Wright, Kenton Sparks, but I won’t.

So that is my list! I won’t bother tagging anyone since I don’t want to spend the time to figure out who hasn’t been tagged yet!

I am curious what books or scholars have been influential in shaping the way you, my readers, read the Bible.


Posted in Bible, Biblioblogs, Scholars, Teaching & Learning | 4 Comments »

Canada Day Special: Top Ten Canadian Biblical Scholars

1st July 2007

Happy Canada Day!

For unaware readers, Canada Day is the celebration of the anniversary of the formation of the union of the British North America provinces in a federation under the name of “Canada” on July 1st. This year marks Canada’s 140th birthday. Happy birthday to us!

In honour of Canada Day, I thought I would list the top ten Canadian Biblical Scholars. To qualify for the list, the scholars must be Canadian citizens who spent a significant amount of their academic career in Canada. Beyond this basic requirement, these individuals were/are leading scholars in their disciplines as demonstrated by their teaching, research, and writing, as well as their contribution to the field of biblical studies in Canada. As you can see from the names below, this list is more historical in nature.

So, for what it is worth, here’s my list (in alphabetical order):

  • Francis (Frank) W. Beare. Beare was professor of New Testament at Trinity College, Toronto, and author of a number of books in New Testament studies, and contributed to the Interpreter’s Bible and the Interpreters’ Dictionary of the Bible. He served as president of CSBS in 1941-42 as well as the SBL in 1969. The CSBS has an annual prize named for Dr. Beare for an outstanding book in the areas of Christian Origins, Post-Biblical Judaism and/or Graeco-Roman Religions.
  • G. B. Caird. Beginning his career as Professor of NT at McGill (he finished it at Oxford), Caird was known for his many studies of the gospel of Luke and the book of Revelation as well as his monograph The Language and Imagery of the Bible. He served as president of the CSBS in 1957-58.
  • Peter C. Craigie. A specialist in Hebrew Bible as well as Ugaritic, Craigie was Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Calgary, where he later became Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Associate Vice-President (Academic), and, in 1985, Vice-President (Academic) just before his untimely death from injuries sustained in an automobile accident in 1985. His publications included commentaries on Deuteronomy, Ezekiel, and the Minor Prophets, as well as a popular book on War in the Hebrew Bible. Craigie was also committed to bridge the gap between academia and the church. His term as president of the CSBS was cut short by his death. The CSBS holds a bi-yearly lecture in Craigie’s honour.
  • R.A.F. MacKenzie. Professor of Old Testament at Regis College in Toronto for 14 years, MacKenzie distinguished himself as one of the leading English-speaking Catholic scholars in Canada. Author of many book and articles in biblical studies, I personally found his work on biblical case law quite fascinating.
  • J. F. McCurdy. The “father” of biblical studies in Canada, McCurdy headed up the Department of Orientals at University College, Toronto.
  • Theophile Jame Meek. Professor at University College, Toronto, and author of many books and articles, including his influential Hebrew Origins. Probably best known as the translator of the Mesopotamian law codes in J.B. Pritchard’s ANET.
  • R. B. Y. Scott. Scott was a prolific scholar, an editor and contributor to the Interpreter’s Bible, a contributor to the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, and author of two commentaries (Proverbs and Ecclesiastes) in the Anchor Bible series, among numerous other articles and books. His teaching career began in Vancouver, but spent the bulk of his academic career at McGill and Princeton. He was a founding member of the CSBS, its first secretary-treasurer, and served as president of the CSBS in 1971-71. He also was president of the SBL in 1960. The CSBS has an annual prize named for Dr. Scott for an outstanding book in the area of Hebrew Bible or the ancient Near East.
  • John William Wevers. A preeminent Septuagint scholar, Wevers also wrote in the area of Hebrew Bible. He spent his academic career at the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of Toronto. His work on the LXX Pentateuch in the Göttingen Septuagint series as well as his accompanying Notes on… series will serve generations of students and scholars alike.
  • Ronald J. Williams. Professor at the University of Toronto, Prof. Williams authored many books, including the still valuable Hebrew Syntax: An Outline. He was president of the CSBS in 1952-53.
  • _____________. Who would you complete the list with?

As you can see, I left the final slot open… who would you think deserves mention in this list? Also, can you think of any female scholars who deserve mention on this list?

If I was going to make a list of the senior Canadian biblical scholars who are still contributing to the field then the list would be quite different — and a bit more difficult since there are many world class Canadian scholars in biblical studies today. I imagine such a list would include the likes of Robert Culley, Paul Dion, Gordon Fee, David Jobling, John Kloppenborg, Al Pietersma, E.J. Revell, Eileen Schuller, John Van Seters, Bruce Waltke, among others.

Any other nominations?


Posted in Canada Day, Canadiana, Holidays, Scholars | 17 Comments »

Top Ten Old Testament Scholars Since 1800

24th May 2007

Charles Halton has written an interesting list of the “Top Ten Old Testament Scholars Since 1800” over at Awilum.  The only surprises on the list (IMHO) are the inclusion of Thompson and Van Seters at number nine.  While I am not denying their significant input in biblical studies and would probably be in a top 50, they are not top 10 material. I would have to agree with some of the comments that as far as living scholars Emanuel Tov should perhaps be included.

The big question is what criteria were used to make the list. I would think that such a list should only include scholars whose influence spanned across sub fields within Old Testament studies and who influenced the field not only through their publications but also through their students. Thus, the inclusion of Wellhausen, Gunkel, Noth, von Rad, Albright, and Childs. On the other hand, I wouldn’t include Thompson or Van Seters, since they are one trick ponies (no offence intended). That is also why I wouldn’t include the likes of Jacob Milgrom, Sarah Japhet,  Phylis Trible, etc., but I would perhaps include S.R. Driver, C. Briggs, Sigmund Mowinckel, and Dominique Barthelemy high up in my list. Furthermore, Dever isn’t even an Old Testament/Hebrew Bible scholar, so he wouldn’t make my list at all (that, of course, depends on how narrowly you define “Old Testament scholars”).

Ah, “the making of many books lists there is no end, and much study wearies the flesh”


Posted in Bible, Criticism, Old Testament, Scholars | 2 Comments »

Leviticus Scroll Image Comparison Before and After Removal

11th May 2007

The missing image referred to in my previous post was linked to in the Hebrew version of the same article.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the scroll before (right) and after (left) the part was cut out:

leviticusscrollcut.jpg

It appears a fairly large portion of the fragment was removed: 1 cm wide at the top and about 2 cm long. Note that no letters were removed. If this image is authentic, then the amount removed was larger than the “two small parts, one-half centimeter each” that Amir Ganor, director of the unit for the prevention of theft in the Antiquities Authority, reported.


Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Hanan Eshel, Leviticus, Leviticus Scroll, Scholars | Comments Off

Leviticus Scroll Fragments in the News Again

11th May 2007

The Leviticus scroll discovered (or should I say recovered) by Israeli Archaeologist Hanan Eshel is back in the news. According to an article in Ha’aretz, Eshel is claiming that the Israeli Antiquities Authority is performing unnecessarily obtrusive tests on the fragments in order to determine their authenticity.

Here is the news item, “Archaeologist: Antiquities Authority destroying Leviticus scroll,” by Yair Sheleg:

Professor Hanan Eshel, the archaeologist who two years ago uncovered scroll fragments of the Book of Leviticus, says the Israel Antiquities Authority, which now has the finds, has cut out large chunks of the scroll on the pretext that its dating needed to be examined.

This was not a necessary procedure, says Eshel, since “experts say it was possible to test the dating without an intrusive examination and in the worst case scenario by cutting a tiny, peripheral portion of the scroll.”

Relying on internal sources in the Antiquities Authority, Eshel says “there had even been plans to cut letters from the scroll but the employees that were asked to do so refused.”

Eshel ties the behavior of the Authority to a dispute that emerged between him and officials there and “their desire to prove that the scroll is a forgery.”

Amir Ganor, director of the unit for the prevention of theft in the Antiquities Authority, said in response that “in order to carry out the examination we could not avoid making certain cuts in the scroll itself. This is acceptable in every examination of this sort. We cut only two small parts, one-half centimeter each, from the end of the scroll. At no stage was there any thought of cutting letters, only to scrape off some ink in order to examine it. The minute it became clear to us that we could not have unequivocal results from such an examination, we did not do it.”

However, the photographs published here [where? there was no link or no pictures!] suggest the scroll cuts are significantly more extensive than what Ganor acknowledges and encompass nearly all the part of the scroll that has no writing on it.

Ganor said examinations of the scroll have undermined Eshel’s claim that the finding is authentic.

“I can not give any details because the topic is part of an ongoing investigation of this matter, but the examinations show that different portions of the scroll were written in different periods, which is a blow to the claim that the scroll is homogeneous.”

Eshel, on the other hand, is eager to offer more information on the subject. He says: “The information that I have is that the examination that was carried out at the Weizmann Institute did indeed show that the two portions that were sent for examination belong to different periods – one about 2,000 years ago, and the other about 1,200 years ago. On the other hand, another examination carried out at Oxford [University] attributed both to a period 2,000 years ago.”

Eshel says the Weizmann test results were flawed because of “the use of cleaning and preservation materials. I am not an expert on such exams, but the experts told me that such treatment may certainly result in a flawed examination. In any case, the writing on both segments clearly belongs to the Second Temple period and definitely does not conform to the Mameluk period, which is what the Weizmann Institute examination points to. Moreover, during the search in the cave where we found the scroll, we uncovered other archaeological finds for the period of the Bar-Kokhba revolt, proving the dating.”

I had covered the discovery of the Leviticus scrolls quite extensively a couple years back, so I have an interest in this story. You can see all of my previous posts here, including a step-by-step reconstructions of the fragments. Here is a picture of the fragments shortly after they were recovered:

I would think that if tests could be done on the manuscript without destroying large parts of it, then the IAA would do so.

I wish the news article contained the image that showed how much of the manuscript was cut.

(HT Dr. Claude Mariottini)


Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Hanan Eshel, Leviticus, Leviticus Scroll | 1 Comment »

A Step-by-Step Reconstruction of the New Leviticus Fragments (Best of Codex)

18th November 2006

[Originally Posted 18th July 2005]

Tim Bulkeley over at SansBlog asked me to expand my analysis of the newly-discovered fragments of Leviticus by describing a bit of the processes involved in identifying and reconstructing the fragments. I thought that I would entertain his request, though I should note up front that I am by no means an expert in this! My interest in the reconstruction of Dead Sea Scroll fragments is a tangent of my work on the so-called Qumran Psalms scrolls for my dissertation that combines my interest in computer technology and really old stuff!

At any rate, I thought I would outline some of the steps in identifying, reconstructing, and analyzing scroll fragments using the Leviticus fragments by way of illustration. (Since I am not an expert at this, I would love to get feedback from those who are!)

STEP 1: Identification

The first (obvious) step in reconstructing a fragment is figuring out what it is a fragment from! This is done by identifying some of the extant letters and words on the fragment and then performing some searches with various computer software to see if you can locate the text.

Image Adjustment
Before you can identify some of the letters it may be necessary to make some adjustments to the image to bring the letters into sharper relief or even to make the fragment readable in the first place! Note that I am dealing with working with images and not the actual original fragments. This is preferable in most cases as the originals may not be readable and (more significantly) they are likely not accessible! High resolution images may be obtained from various sources, including the Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center at Claremont.

I prefer to do my work on the images with Adobe Photoshop. Within Photoshop you can adjust the input and output levels (using the histogram feature), brightness/contrast, among other things to make the text more readable. While the low resolution images of the Leviticus fragments I tracked down on the web are pretty clear, they can be made even clearer by adjusting them slightly:


The adjusted image is a bit easier to read. At times the difference may be dramatic. Compare the two images of PAM 42.141 where the text becomes readable only by adjusting the original image:

Identifying the Text
Once you can read the fragment — or at least some of the fragment — then you can start the process of identification. This is a bit easier for biblical fragments since there are a number of excellent databases of the Hebrew Bible to begin the identification process. I prefer to use Accordance Bible Software for my searches, though Logos Bible Software and BibleWorks, among others, are more than adequate (see my Software for Biblical Studies Pages for descriptions of these and other biblical studies software programs).

With the small Leviticus fragment I did a search for כל נדרי×? “all your votive offerings” which is easily readable in the first line of the fragment. This search discovers that Lev 23:38 is the only occurrence of this phrase in the Hebrew Bible (I also searched a Qumran database with no matches). At that point the rest of the readable words can be checked in the context to see if you have found a match. In the case of the small Leviticus fragment, the other readable words from it easily fit the context of Lev 23:38-39. The same was the case for the larger Leviticus fragment (it is actually two fragments that have been joined), since there were quite a few readable words to make a certain identification with Lev 23:40-44; 24:16-18. You often don’t have as much to work with, however! In my work on 1Q12 (1QPsc) I identified a fragment 8 based on two readable letters and portions of another letter (see my Proposed Reconstruction).

STEP 2: Reconstruction

Once you have the text identified, the next step is to reconstruct it so that you may confirm your identification and ascertain other things about the fragment such as its original size. In order to do this I use Microsoft Word and/or Photoshop (I have also used Quark XPress for this step) to see how the text lines up with the fragment. So, for example, with the smaller Leviticus fragment I imported Hebrew text of Lev 23:38-39 (without pointing) into Word and then adjusted the right-hand margin until the text lined up in accordance with the fragment. In the case of the smaller fragment, the text lined up quite nicely, producing lines of ca. 22-28 letterspaces:

My reconstruction shows the extant Leviticus 23:38 and 39 in bold black type with an outline of the fragment placement. The space at the top of the fragment preserves part of the top margin of the scroll (the dark spot near the top of the fragment is likely an ink dot or a blemish on the leather).

Here is a translation with the extant words in bold:

38 …and apart from all your votive offerings, and apart from all your freewill offerings, which you give to the Lord. 39 Now, the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall keep the festival of the Lord, lasting seven days; a complete rest on the first day, and a complete rest on the eighth day.

For the larger fragment, it was a bit more complicated since I was dealing with two columns. But once again, the text lined up very nicely producing lines of ca. 22-28 letterspaces for the right column and 20-25 for the left column, and a column height of ca. 33 lines.

Here is an image of the large fragment:

Here is my reconstruction of the columns:

My reconstruction shows the extant Leviticus 23:40-44 (middle of the right column) and 24:16-18 (left column) in bold black type with an outline of the fragment placement. Note that the smaller fragment also nicely fits at the top of the right column.

The one variant from the MT (as represented by BHS) is the plene spelling of בסכת at the end of verse 42 (the vav is in red). (click for larger image)

Here is a translation with the extant words in bold:

38 …and apart from all your votive offerings, and apart from all your freewill offerings, which you give to the Lord. 39 Now, the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall keep the festival of the Lord, lasting seven days; a complete rest on the first day, and a complete rest on the eighth day.

41You shall keep it as a festival to the Lord seven days in the year; you shall keep it in the seventh month as a statute forever throughout your generations. 42 You shall live in booths for seven days; all that are citizens in Israel shall live in booths, 43 so that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. 44 Thus Moses declared to the people of Israel the appointed festivals of the Lord.

16One who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; the whole congregation shall stone the blasphemer. Aliens as well as citizens, when they blaspheme the Name, shall be put to death. 17 Anyone who kills a human being shall be put to death. 18

Anyone who kills an animal shall make restitution for it, life for life.

N.B. For a detailed reconstruction, you would have to do much more than just count letters. You would need to consider the widths of different letters in the scroll’s script. For example, even on these fragments it is clear that the ×™ yods and ו vavs take much less space than the ש sins and ב bets. For more detail on calculating letter widths and scroll reconstruction in general, see Edward D. Herbert, Reconstructing Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Method Applied to the Reconstruction of 4QSama (Brill, 1997; Buy from Amazon.caBuy from Amazon.com). You would also need to check to see if these verses are extant in any other scrolls from Qumran; in this case you would want to double check your text with 4QLevb (as it turns out these particular words are not found in 1QLevb).

STEP 3: Description

The third step is to describe your findings and if you were working with the original fragments, you would also provide a physical description. In this case, if the reconstruction is correct, the larger fragment would have been part of a scroll that was quite large. Based on this height and the number of lines per column, the scroll itself would have been on the large size for scrolls found at Qumran and likely contained the complete book of Leviticus, if not the entire Torah/Pentateuch (see Emanuel Tov, “Scribal Practices and the Physical Aspects of the Dead Sea Scrolls” in The Bible as Book: The Manuscript Tradition [John L. Sharpe and Kimberly Van Kampen, eds.; 1998] 9-33; Buy from Amazon.caBuy from Amazon.com).

The nature and type of the leather would also have to be ascertained. While one news report identified the material as “deer hide,” most other authentic scrolls were made from the skins of sheep and goats. While the fragments were not tested, Eshel himself was pretty sure that they were either goat or sheep skin.

An examination of the paleography (the style of writing) is consistent with post-Herodian scripts (end of the first century C.E.), including other scrolls from the Bar Kokhba era, such as the Psalms scroll from the Cave of Letters.

The fragments do not give us much in terms of variant readings. The fragments follow the Masoretic text with one exception: at the end of v. 42 the larger fragment has בסכות instead of בסכת, both “booths” (indicated in red type on the larger reconstruction). This is a minor spelling difference, much like the difference between the Canadian spelling of “honour” and the American “honor.” (The fact that the Samaritan Pentateuch also reads בסכות is inconsenquential as it consistently uses the plene spelling throughout).

Conclusions

Reconstructing scrolls with biblical studies software and imaging programs takes a considerable amount of work. I personally find the work interesting (even fascinating), which explains why I bothered to write up this analysis! What I find amazing is how the first generation of scroll scholars did so much ground-breaking work without this technology!

In regards to the two Leviticus fragments, my hunch is that they are authentic. If not, then my hat goes off to the person or persons who produced such fine forgeries!


Posted in Best of Codex, Dead Sea Scrolls, Hanan Eshel, Leviticus Scroll | 2 Comments »

Laments, Complaints, Prayers, Pleas, or Petitions?

6th November 2006

In response to my post on The Costly Loss of Lament for the Church, Tim Bulkeley over at SansBlogue rightfully noted that I have tended to continue employ the designation “laments” when referring to what Gunkel called Klagepsalmen. Tim prefers the term “complaints” when referring to the same psalms:

These psalms claim that something is wrong with the world, usually complaining that God has not acted to right the wrong and go on to petition God to put it right. They seldom stop at merely lamenting the wrong.

Tim highlights a fairly common critique of the appropriateness of the term “lament.” I would agree that the term “lament” isn’t entirely satisfactory since in English “lament” tends to be understood passively as a cry of sorrow or grief. In this regard, the psalmist isn’t really “lamenting.” Rather he is describing his distress and appealing to God for aid. That being said, I don’t think that “complaint” is entirely satisfactory either. In common usage, “complaint” tends to be a minor expression of displeasure; you complain about poor service at a restaurant or when your ride is late. In this regard I wonder if using the term “complaint” trivializes the psalms in question.

A number of scholars don’t use either term, but prefer to use terms that derive from the biblical text itself. Thus, Hans-Joachim Kraus, in his excellent commentary on the Psalms, calls laments “songs of prayer” based on the general Hebrew term for prayer, תפלה tefilla. Craig Broyles makes a similar move in his commentary by calling these psalms “prayer psalms.” The rationale for this move is twofold for Broyles. First, he prefers to employ a designation derived from the psalms themselves (as I already noted). Second, he finds that the term “lament” gives undue prominence to one motif in the psalms.

I wonder if a more appropriate name for these psalms may be “pleas” or “petitions.” Gunkel and most other psalms scholars after him have recognized the most important element of the lament psalm is the plea or petition for help. Gerstenberger calls it the “very heart of a complaint psalm” and claims that “in fact, all the other elements can be interpreted as preparing and supporting the petition” (Psalms, FOTL, 13).

I am happy to continue to employ the traditional term “lament” — and even to alternate it with “complaint.” But if I wanted to adopt a more appropriate name, I would probably use something like “prayer of petition” or “plea.”


Posted in Form criticism, Hermann Gunkel, Psalms | 1 Comment »